Friday, April 11, 2008

Help needed: Athletes and self-disclosure

The following comes from Todd Fraley at East Carolina University. If you can help, please contact him at the email listed below.
I have a graduate student who is studying the relationship between athletes and athletic trainers with a specific interest in understanding connections between self-disclosure among athletes in a healthcare setting (i.e the training room) and notions of athletic identity.

I have added some of her thoughts below.

If you have any ideas on literature that might be beneifical please email me. You can do this off the list at

Todd Fraley
Self-disclosure emerged as a significant part of the interactions between athletes and trainers. I believe this is due to the strong role-identity athletes possess. Role-identity can be defined as the characteristics an individual has due to the social groups they belong to (Charng, Piliavin, & Callero, 1988). Athletes in particular have been found to relate strongly to their identities. “Not only do athletes place significant importance on their identity as athletes, but others often place importance on this particular identity.

A professional horseback rider said:

“My body has failed me because it can no longer perform the function I want it to. To ride horses in competition is for me the most meaningful expression of my body’s special capabilities. This restriction has become the focus of my life; it has hit at the inner core of my being,” (Sparkes, 1998, p. 652).

I think it is the athletic-identity that causes the high rates of self-disclosure in the athletic training room. Although all people value their bodies, I feel that athletes’ especially place emphasis on their bodies and it’s health because their bodies act as machines in an important factory. If their “machines” aren’t properly functioning, they risk not only their bodies, but their cores, their identities.

Self-disclosure between athlete and trainer is based on trust. Northouse & Northouse say that trust “is present in relationships when individuals feel that they can rely on others,” (p. 71). Relationships in health care settings require “that individuals’ communication be descriptive rather than evaluative, problem oriented rather than control oriented, spontaneous rather than strategic, empathic rather than neutral, equal rather than superior, and provisional rather than certain,” (Northouse & Northouse, 1998, p. 72).


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